October 24, 2010

Band Blogging

I've been at a reunion the past few days, hooking back up with my best girlfriend of 30 years from high school, and attending and becoming 16 again.

Much has changed in the last 30 years and not just gray hair and body shapes.

Much has changed with our society. Some of it makes me sad...

Hundreds of us gathered to celebrate our youth and what we accomplished... being something much larger than ourselves. From the early 70s until late 80s, our band was a power house to contend with... Nationally. We won the National Championships in 1980 and placed every year after that that we participated.

The first band in Florida... to win.

We marched 220 strong, practicing three hours every afternoon, four days a week, performing on the 5th. Summers were spent drilling and at camp, shows memorized; music practiced so often we heard it in our sleep.

We marched in behind the current band on Friday night before the game; a section had been taped off for the 'band alumni'. There were hundreds of us including family and we filled more than our section. My friends and I sat on the 50 yard line, one row below the announcing box.

We were 16 again, screaming, laughing, and joking. It was as if we had never left. We were older, but that was all.

Perhaps we were a tad bit more uninhibited, but not much. I assure you.

It will go down as one of the best weekends I have ever had.

I don't remember the last time I spent so much time laughing, I nearly cried.

And so until I can get my blogging stuff together to come up with some real posts, I give you our 1981 show at Nationals. I'm on that field somewhere. This would be my Junior year in high school.

There is one story in particular that I'm trying to figure out how to post. Anyone from Pensacola will think it a riot, I'm just trying to figure out how to hide identities to protect the seriously guilty...

Posted by Boudicca at October 24, 2010 09:43 PM

So what did you play?

We didn't have any marching violins in my HS band.

Posted by: The Thomas at October 24, 2010 10:06 PM

The rotations were nicely done. The shapes didn't lose their symmetry as they rotated.

Posted by: The Thomas at October 24, 2010 10:12 PM

I was one of the scads of female flute players. You could throw a rock and hit one....

We did pretty good. A couple circles went flat. Nerves always play a factor.

I remember the big goal was to run over a judge. They'd never seen the show and you were supposed to ignore them. So as we played and marched, staring straight ahead, deep inside you prayed, "Please, Lord, let me take out a judge!" Nice. Nothing like dreaming of being the flute player who snapped left and nailed a judge in the side of the head with a flute.

Easier to nail one when you were a trombone player...

Note the white shoes. "Wimp bands wore black shoes". White shoes showed all foot mistakes. The current band wears... black. We were sad.

Posted by: Bou at October 24, 2010 10:17 PM

As an Aussie this just blows my mind - nothing like that out here! :-)

Posted by: Shaz at October 24, 2010 10:17 PM

Let me throw a couple other things in here... we drilled in the hot sun hour after hour day after day, we were all in pretty damn good shape. With the exception of one or two kids who were genetically big, look at our shapes. We were all dang lean... VERY lean.

But let me add... look at those girls with the rifles. Not one of those girls weighed over 120 when wet. NOT ONE. And those rifles were HEAVY. They are light now, in 2010, we have better materials, but those things were heavy as crap and you look at how the flip them around, sometimes using TWO. They catch them behind their backs, toss them, catch them and move on without looking like they broke a sweat.

Our rifle team was THE BEST. Our drum line was superior too...

Posted by: Bou at October 24, 2010 10:26 PM

First let me say, whenever you blog your band stuff I have severe cases of envy. LOL. I wanted to play the flute - but missed the day in school when they came to talk about instruments (home with a migraine - surprise). And no one told me about it until it was too late for me to join up. *sigh*

Second - I did notice what terrific shape you were all in. But then again the sheer length of the program would require a HUGE amount of practice. I can't imagine how much you had to eat just to keep weight on!

Last of all - absolutely terrific performance. Very Very impressive!!!!

Posted by: Teresa at October 25, 2010 11:03 AM

That is amazing.

I'm fairly certain your band is bigger than the graduating class at the first high school I attended. Had I graduated with them, we would've been 104 people, and the largest class that school had graduated (to that point).

I cannot fathom such a large band. Nor, for that matter, having to not only memorize my music, but then try to move my feet while playing my flute?! Amazing.

Posted by: wRitErsbLock at October 25, 2010 12:11 PM

We had a lot of DCI assist. We had a Phantom Regiment drummer working with our drum line. Our drum line really was the best during that time frame. Our Color Guard worked with a Guard expert from Madison Scouts. It was a great team... combined with our band director who was a drill sergeant.

I was standing in line behind one of our soloists, a trumpet player, the year we won. Changing his name for this blog, I said to him, "Do you miss hearing your name screamed over the bull horn "GARRISH!!!" His wife turned to me and said, "You know, I said to him as we walked in, if he needed me to scream his last name at him over and over to make him feel right at home, I would..."

Our #1 dreaded word... "AGAIN!"

You can imagine how long it took to learn a show like this. I wonder now... how long did it take them to create it?

Posted by: Bou at October 25, 2010 12:11 PM

Writersblock, you of course moved your feet to the beat. We practiced for hours, in particular with freshmen, just marching over and over, there is a way to do it, almost a glide, a certain space between feet. It got so that it was natural. Your step was naturally smaller... marching became the easy part when playing.

Remembering when to turn and where you were marching to was a whole other issue... playing and dressing a line was priority.

Band students walked a bit straighter too. There was no slouching in band. We drilled like the military. We drilled for an hour as warm up before we started our practices.

Posted by: Bou at October 25, 2010 12:15 PM

I'm pretty sure your band was as big as our jr/sr highschool combined, which we did combine to get enough people to march at football games, parades and competition. I played trumpet for a couple of years, then the french horn (and that marching horn was huge - would have taken out a judge real easily), then my jr & sr year i was the drum major. and WOW!! Phantom Regiment helping out with the drumline - WOW!! we wore white shoes with red uniforms. back in the day it was black shoes with white spats.

Posted by: Tina at October 25, 2010 12:25 PM

Our assistant bd was a Regiment drummer. He's now got his own band that I hear is a FORCE to contend with this decade.

The current band is doing a tremendous job. They really are, but their Color Guard has... like 10 girls. I asked a Dad why so few? He said to be in band... last year he shelled out $1800. For one year. Yikes! I think they're working on making it more affordable...

Posted by: Bou at October 25, 2010 12:30 PM

Absolutely amazing doesn't begin to describe that band. But I've got to tell you that the military could not touch anywhere near you guys in precision, timing and sheer dedication. (and I know that from personal experience) I kept thinking as I watched it that your school must have had some amazing teachers and staff (hell amazing individuals of any kind) who could inspire THAT many students to work THAT hard, for THAT long. Incredible.

Posted by: Lemon Stand at October 25, 2010 12:38 PM

I'm not sure how much of it was inspiration vs. down right fear... Then there was peer pressure. And the realization that we were part of something very good and bigger than ourselves... and wanting to continue to be a part of it. I think I know of only one person who ever dropped out of band. That was a family situation. WE were one big family. I think that's why when we get back together, we meld into one again.

There was a group of us, that literally, solidified into one person on Friday night and it continued that way through Saturday night. You could see pockets of people doing it... not able to separate.

Posted by: Bou at October 25, 2010 02:07 PM

Man, what flashbacks!

We were contemporaries in different parts of the country (FL & MN). We had former 27th Lancers alumni lend us a hand. I actually did my age-out year with Phantom Regiment in the early '80s.

If I describe our rehearsals to people in conversation, some of them get it, some don't. Those that do have been there - and have the T-shirt to prove it!

I never took out a judge, but did nail a cameraman who wouldn't get out of the way (In fairness, I did shout at him to move). My mom said they saw my elbow getting bigger and bigger, then the screen went fuzzy while they cut to another feed, showing the guy scrambling to avoid getting stomped.

Thanks for sharing!

Posted by: Deen at October 25, 2010 03:15 PM

8 to 5!
Best part of high school was marching in an award winning band. We never went to nationals, but we were a force to be reckoned with in the area - love those superiors!
Nothing like the feeling of belonging to a group like that is there?!
And we wore white shoes too. Better have them absolutely spotless for the inspection!

Posted by: patti at October 25, 2010 04:07 PM

25 years before you. We had a marching band of 100 and we won the Cherry Blossom Festival competition and one of our majorettes was the national champ that year. 30 members ended up in the Ohio State Marching band. Also remember the band camps and the drilling and drilling over and over. Until my class got to high school our football team was so bad that people would come for the band show at half time and then go home. We went undefeated as a football team for 4 years, something different for that school. That was when people would stay for the whole game.

I do remember that some of the schools we played would ask to have the band repeat a show they had heard about from another opponent. We had to do one show 4 times that year.

There really is a comradeship that develops when you practice and work so hard together to create something like your band showed here. Just outstanding. Loved it.

Posted by: dick at October 25, 2010 04:45 PM

Our band director used to yell, "Don't be a hot dog band!" Hot dog bands were bands where people left to get a hot dog during halftime.

My sophomore year, we won State football, division 4A which was the biggest at the time AND we were MBA Champions. At the State Football game, held in our area at Escambia High School, they had 13,000 people come. Not one person got up to get a hot dog during half time and it was a big big football game.

I don't want anyone to think I live in the past. These weren't my glory years. I'd not go back to high school again to save my life. But they were very FORMATIVE years where I continued to fine tune a hard work ethic my parents instilled, I learned how to work as a team, I learned how to work for the greater good, work and reward came hand in hand, and I met my bff of 30 years, this past August. I formed some GREAT relationships...

I loved college best. I'd do my senior year in college again... in a heartbeat. But not high school.

Marching Band helped to mold me into who I am... finishing touches on what my folks had already started and continued to work so diligently on.

Posted by: Bou at October 25, 2010 05:36 PM

That was farookin' fabulous. Everything about it was fabulous. Hell, you could watch that ten times and still not properly appreciate everything that is going on on that field. Amazing. Simply amazing. Proves that dedication, hard work and practice pay off.

Posted by: Jim - PRS at October 25, 2010 06:33 PM

I was in the very first Marching Band at my high school. For three great years I humped that Sousaphone (B-flat tuba to you rubes) up and down that field.

I had more fun than you would believe!

We had a great bunch of people.

Later it paid off big-time. In Navy boot camp, in 1969, I was in the Recruit Drum and Bugle Corps in San Diego, playing baritone bugle (yes, there is such a thing). In early September we played for a San Diego Chargers game. And guess who showed up?

President Richard M. Nixon, Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States.

I still get a buzz out of playing for the President.

Posted by: Old Wierd Ward at October 25, 2010 08:52 PM

Jim- Funny you should say that, but I've watched it a couple times the last couple days, trying to see everything going on. I don't think I fully realized it all until today.

OWW-I think the guys that had the MOST fun in our band were the tuba players. They kind of watched everything going on around them. They were characters. We had a pretty good sized mellophone section too.

We played for Reagan before he won. It's funny, but someone brought that up. I meant to ask who the dorks were that locked their knees and passed out. I remember there were quite a few.

Posted by: Bou at October 25, 2010 09:24 PM

(Tried to post this from work, but the proxy is still f'd up.)

It does look like the "rifles" were milled out of 1 meter long pieces of 2x4. That would make them appropriately heavy.

My children marched with (in order by decreasing age) flute, clarinet, and trumpet.

Our band gets consistent firsts at local competitions, but only practice an hour a day (weekdays) and 4 hours at night on Monday. To make the daily practice "better" the auditorium parking lot next to the band room is marked as a football field and has permanently constructed viewing stand (with stairs) for the band director. The performances on game day (Friday) and competitions (Saturday) don't count as practice. Band camp (of course) was a week of 12 hour days. Drum line practice starts in June and runs daily until the end of season.

A neighboring HS band has 3 weeks of at-home 8 hour days camp prior to the 12-hour a day (away) band camp week. They also practice an additional 2 hours a day in addition to their band class hour. Even with the extra time, they aren't that much better.

Posted by: The Thomas at October 25, 2010 09:39 PM

We always practiced on the Driving Range. It was marked off accordingly. Then there was the big Bear Bryant look out tower that was built that he would stand on to yell at us. I needed to look for that look out tower... to see if it was as tall and daunting as I remember it.

It sucked when you'd done the same drill over and over, only to hear his voice shout down like Zeus on top of Olympus, "AGAIN! Do it again for SMITH, who can't seem to find her MARK!" You didn't know whether to be humiliated or afraid for your life... for fear the other band members were going to murder you for having to do it AGAIN for the hundredth time...

Posted by: Bou at October 25, 2010 09:48 PM

It was so cool of the Band Alumni to credit the current band with the standing ovations... Yes they are a smaller, less competitive band, but they are still working their tails off..

The issue is that it is very expensive to be in band these days. My niece is in the band, this is her first year and already my sister has shelled out more than $1,500... That is crazy money for this part of Florida, where the median family income is $28K...

They have blown it so far out of proportion that it is now unaffordable for most of the kids...

Posted by: P'cola Titan at October 25, 2010 11:52 PM

PT- OH did you hear? They won their competition on Saturday night!!! A bunch of us waited at the Band Hall for them! As they got off the bus, the parents cheered and we were there too. It was the first time they'd won in a LONG time. It was a GREAT show they put together and they've obviously been working really really hard.

I was so proud of them!

I was talking to a Dad. They're taking the band back down to basics. The assistant director is taking over. They're looking to make it more affordable and they're going to get off the crazy train of going places like Hawaii.

My son is in private school down here and we don't take crazy trips like that. Hell, last year we didn't even take a trip because half of the folks couldn't afford the $600 for us to schlep to Orlando as a band, let alone Europe. Good Grief...

Posted by: Bou at October 26, 2010 05:57 AM

Sounds like such a fun reunion!

My HS had a big band that won awards and we loved them almost as much as the football team. ;-)

Posted by: pam at October 27, 2010 07:46 AM

I am impressed... and I spent a lot of time watching Elder Daughter and her H.S. drill team, so I know quality when I see it!

Posted by: Elisson at October 27, 2010 01:17 PM

... that is amazing!.....

Posted by: Eric at October 30, 2010 02:33 PM